A recent ad from the New Orleans Police Department tried to set their city apart from other cities, namely, Cleveland:
The NOPD posted the commercial—”Everywhere Else Is Cleveland”—to its social media accounts at 9 a.m. Wednesday…
“Everywhere Else Is Cleveland”—which features women, people of color and members of the local LGBTQ community—was commissioned by the foundation as part of a broader recruitment push to help fortify the city’s shrinking police force. To broaden their applicant pool, the department recently relaxed restrictions around past marijuana use, credit scores and physical appearance—including tattoos, facial hair and nail polish.
The commercial’s title is a play on the famous Tennessee Williams quote: “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”
See an earlier post about this quote.
This quote referenced above hints at a larger issue for those who study American cities. When is it helpful to lump cities together as similar enough or helpful to put them in different categories because they have unique traits? All big cities share some common characteristics but they are also different in certain ways. Is size, the time of settlement or rapid population growth, density, political system, cultural opportunities, or something else the factor we should use to analyze cities?
The quote above suggests there are four categories of cities: three that stand on their own then a much larger category represented by Cleveland. Cleveland is the stand-in here for all nondescript cities compared to three American cities that have unique personalities and settings. The ad suggests New Orleans is a very different kind of place.
Is this objectively true? As far as I know, there is no New Orleans School of urban thought, but this does not mean there should not be. Urban sociologists and theorists tend to squabble more about the biggest cities and whether New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles are the best models for understanding urban processes.